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The Orioles need to sign Chris Tillman to an extension

The Orioles need to sign Chris Tillman to an extension

Two of the most irritating catchphrases around Baltimore sports are “Joe Flacco isn’t an elite quarterback” and “Chris Tillman isn’t an ace.” 

I’m not here to opine on Flacco and the Ravens’ difficulties, but I am here to defend Tillman. 

Over the last five seasons, Tillman is 65-33, a winning percentage of .663. 

How good is that? Jim Palmer’s lifetime winning percentage was .638, and in his 10 years with the Orioles, Mike Mussina’s was .645.

Tillman, who had an erratic first three seasons with the Orioles, still has a lifetime .600 percentage, in his time here. That trails only Mussina, Palmer, Mike Cuellar and Dave McNally among pitchers with at least as many wins as Tillman. 

He’s climbing up on the Orioles’ all-time lists. With 72 wins, Tillman is 13th in franchise history, just one behind the immortal Sidney Ponson. With a decent season, Tillman will pass Ponson, Scott Erickson and Mike Boddicker, who each have 79 wins as an Oriole. 

To be sure, Tillman’s ERA is much higher than many of those ahead of him, but at 4.13, it’s still far better than Ponson, Erickson and Dennis Martinez. 

It’s not far off two other Orioles greats, Scott McGregor (3.99) and Mike Flanagan (3.89). 

Tillman isn’t an Oriole great, but he’s at least an Oriole very good. 

As for the ace talk, Tillman won 16 games, tying him with Justin Verlander and Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma for sixth place. Only Rick Porcello (22), J.A. Happ (21), Corey Kluber (18), David Price and Chris Sale (17) had more. 

All those pitchers ahead of Tillman on the win list had lower ERAs except for Price, as did Verlander, Aaron Sanchez, who led the American League in ERA (3.00) and Masahiro Tanaka. 
No one will argue that Tillman is in the class of Verlander, Kluber or for this year, Porcello, but had he not been shut down for three weeks late in the season, he could have gotten some votes for the Cy Young Award. 

Tillman completed at least six innings in 17 of his 30 starts, and in his third straight Opening Day start, left after two perfect innings only because of a lengthy rain delay. 

By the Orioles’ 68th game, Tillman had won his 10th game and was a sparkling 10-1 with a 3.11 ERA and seemingly on his way for Cy Young and All-Star Game consideration. 

But instead of becoming the Orioles’ first 20-game winner since Boddicker in 1984, Tillman had two bad starts where he allowed 10 runs in 9 2/3 innings, and was passed over for the All-Star Game. 

Tillman was a late add for the 2013 game, but didn’t pitch. 

Following those starts, Tillman pitched four brilliant games, throwing seven innings each time and allowing a total of four runs and just 14 hits. 

While that 14-2 record looked great on July 21, it was obvious his shoulder was bothering him and won just two of his final nine starts. 

Overall, a 16-6 record and 3.77 ERA wasn’t bad and earned him the start in the wild-card game. 

Tillman’s WAR of 4.1 was the second highest of his career, behind only the 4.4 of 2013, the other time he won 16 games. 

Always available at his locker after a game, win or lose, Tillman is admired for never making excuses for his own performance or blaming the offensive shortcomings of his teammates. 

A year from now, Tillman will be a free agent, and another year like this one, and he’ll be a highly sought after one, probably out of the Orioles’ price range.

At the Oct. 6 season-ending press conference, Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette remarked that he had made two runs at signing Tillman to an extension and that he would try again this offseason. 

It will be difficult because the Orioles haven’t signed one of their own pitchers to a five-year contract since Erickson’s five-year $32 extension in 1998.

Tillman is the best Orioles starter since Mussina, who the Orioles famously lost to the New York Yankees. (Mussina signed a six-year, $88.5 million deal in 2000). 

It would be in the Orioles’ best interest if they locked Tillman up for the long term because it’s likely a year from now his price will be much higher than it is now. 

MORE ORIOLES: Orioles release spring training schedule

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Gausman's arm, Machado's glove shuts out Tampa Bay

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USA TODAY Sports

Gausman's arm, Machado's glove shuts out Tampa Bay

ST. PETERBURG, Fla. -- The Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays are teams currently heading in different directions.

Kevin Gausman pitched six strong innings, Adam Jones homered and the Orioles sent the Rays to their season-worst fifth straight loss, 5-0 Monday night.

"It all feeds off the starting pitching," Jones said.

MUST SEE: Machado starts an around the horn double play

The Rays began the day tied for the second AL wild-card spot. Baltimore won for the sixth time in eight games.

"It's all about how we finish as a team," Gausman said.

Gausman (7-7) gave up five hits and struck out eight. He has permitted seven hits over 13 scoreless innings in two starts this season against Tampa Bay.

The right-hander is 4-1 in his last seven starts.

"Kevin was throwing strikes, and working with some tempo and command," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

Darren O'Day, Brad Brach and Richard Bleier completed the six-hitter.

Blake Snell (0-6) went a career-high seven-plus innings. The lefty, who entered with 19 of 30 career starts lasting five or fewer innings, allowed three runs and six hits.

"Snell was tough," Showalter said.

Jones, who also doubled and singled, has an RBI in six straight games. Manny Machado drove in two runs during a three-run eighth and Jonathan Schoop drove in a run for his eighth game in a row.

Rays catcher Wilson Ramos left in the fifth after he was struck on the head by a piece of Ruben Tejada's broken bat. The team said Ramos got six staples and will be evaluated.

"He won't start tomorrow, but we're confident that he feels good," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "A little bit of a scare there. I think Wilson would have preferred to stay in the game. We just weren't able to stop the bleeding."

Jones opened the game with a double and went to third on a wild pitch, but Snell rebounded to strike out Machado and Jonathan Schoop, and retired Mark Trumbo on a popup.

Jones hit his 19th home run in the third.

Snell left in the eighth with two on and no outs. Sergio Romo, in his Rays debut, gave up a two-run single to Machado and Schoop's sacrifice fly. Schoop has 18 RBIs during his streak.

Tampa Bay loaded the bases with two outs in the third but Evan Longoria grounded out. Mallex Smith hit a leadoff triple in the fifth but was left stranded.

"We've just got to continue as this little bit of a funk goes," Cash said. "we've got to find a way to get ourselves out of it."

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Orioles' Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop pull off crazy around the horn double play

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USA TODAY Sports

Orioles' Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop pull off crazy around the horn double play

Quietly the Baltimore Orioles are trying to move back into the American League playoff picture. With more defensive plays like the team saw in the first inning on Monday, their odds will greatly improve.

Facing off against the Tampa Bay Rays in the first game of a three-game series, Manny Machado started what would be a key play for Baltimore. 

With one out and a runner on first base, Machado scooped up an Evan Longoria grounder that was flying down the third base line. Running into foul territory the 25-year-old threw across his body to Jonathan Schoop, who made a high-reaching grab at second and delivered a perfect throw down to first. Ending the inning, the Orioles kept the Rays scoreless with only one hit in the bottom half of the first inning. 

Schoop is coming off his first American League player of the week honor after an impressive stretch in seven games. Mainly the award was for his offensive numbers, but he proved to be a valuable double play partner as well. 

Not only is it a huge play in the moment, but it had to be an empowering play for the psyche of starting pitcher Kevin Gausman. On the mound for the Orioles against the Rays, Gausman was struggling post All-Star break. In three games had allowed 14 earned runs, 20 hits, and six home runs.